By Bernard Condon and Julie Watson
Every night at another home in the Afghan capital, a couple with a U.S. green card from California falls asleep, one always waking up to keep an eye on their three young children so they can hear the footsteps of the Taliban and flee.
They have been relocated seven times in two weeks, relying on relatives to take them inside and feed them. Their days are an uncomfortable mix of fear and boredom, where they are confined to a few rooms where they fall, watch TV and play “The Telephone Game” where they whisper secretly and go to them, an isolation for children that silences them with extra benefits. Keep
All of this goes on during the painful wait that someone is waiting for a call from them who can help them get out. An official from the US State Department contacted them several days ago to say that their case staff was being recruited, but they have not heard from him since. They tried to board a flight and failed and are now talking to an international rescue agency.
In a text message to the Associated Press, the mother said, “We are scared and are hiding more and more.” “Whenever we feel short of breath, I pray.”
Through messages, emails and phone conversations with loved ones and rescue groups, the AP brings together what daily life has been like for some of the people behind the U.S. military’s chaotic withdrawal – including U.S. citizens, permanent U.S. residents, green-card holders and visa applicants who have served in the 20-year war. Time assisted U.S. troops.
Those who have contacted the AP – who are not being identified for their own safety – have been hiding in the house for weeks, turning off the lights at night, moving from one place to another, and donating baggy clothes and burqas to avoid identification. , Described the brilliant existence. If they absolutely have to go out.
Everyone says they are afraid the ruling Taliban will find them, imprison them, or even kill them because they worked for the Americans or the US government. And they are concerned that the Biden administration’s committed efforts to bring them out have stalled.
When the phone rang in an apartment in Kabul a few weeks ago, the U.S. green card holder who answered – a Texas truck driver visited the family – was hopeful the U.S. State Department was finally responding to his and his parents’ request for a flight.
Instead, it was the Taliban.
“We will not hurt you. Let’s meet. Nothing will happen, ”the caller said, according to the truck driver’s brother, who lives with him in Texas and spoke to him later. The call included a few bad words: “We know where you are.”
That was enough to send the man fleeing the Kabul apartment where he was with his mother, his two teenage brothers and his father, who was in particular danger because he had worked under the supervision of security guards for a U.S. contractor for several years.
“They’re hopeless,” said the Texas brother. “They think, ‘We’re stuck in the apartment and there’s no one here to help us.’ They have been left behind. ”
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken testified in Congress last week that the U.S. government has urged U.S. citizens and green card holders to leave Afghanistan since March, even offering to pay for their flights.
Blinken said the U.S. government does not track U.S. green card holders in Afghanistan but he estimates there are several thousand countries, including about 100 U.S. citizens. He said the US government was still working to bring them out.
The State Department says at least one U.S. citizen and one green card holder have been evacuated since the U.S. military withdrew last month. He was aboard another flight from Mazar-e-Sharif on Friday, but the administration did not release figures.
Neither the United States nor the Taliban have made it clear why so few people have been evacuated.
It’s rarely encouraging for another Texas green card holder, the grandmother who recently saw from the roof that militants had brought half a dozen police cars and Humvis to occupy a house across the street.
“The Taliban. The Taliban, “he whispered on the phone with his American son in a Dallas suburb, said the woman had told the AP. “Women and children are screaming. They are dragging the men into the car. ”
She and her husband, who arrived in Kabul a few months ago to visit relatives, now fear that the Taliban will not only expose their American ties but also return to Texas to their son, who worked for a U.S. military contractor for several years.
His son, whose name is not being released, said he called US embassy officials in Kabul several times before, filled out all the necessary paperwork, and even assisted an experienced team and members of Congress.
He doesn’t know what else he can do.
“What do we do if they knock on the door?” The 57-year-old mother asked in one of her daily calls. “What shall we do?”
“Nothing will happen,” the boy replied.
Asked in a recent interview if he believes the boy fired back, excitedly said, “What else can I tell him?”
The Taliban government has promised that Americans and Afghans must leave the country with proper travel documents and will not retaliate against those who helped the United States. But Michelle Bachelet, the UN’s human rights chief, said there was evidence they were not keeping their word. He warned on Monday that the country had entered a “new and dangerous phase”, citing credible reports of retaliatory killings of Afghan military members and allegations of house-to-house hunting by the Taliban for former government officials and people cooperating with the US military. US companies.
AP reporters in Afghanistan are not aware of any US citizens or green card holders being handed over or arrested by the Taliban. But they confirmed that a number of Afghans serving in the previous government and military had recently been taken in for questioning and released.
The California family, which includes a 9-year-old girl and two boys aged boys and ages, says they have been on the run for the past two weeks after the Taliban knocked on the door of their relative’s apartment asking for Americans to stay. There
The family moved to Sacramento four years ago after the mother received a special immigrant visa because she worked for a U.S.-funded project in Kabul to promote women’s rights. Now, the mother says she and her daughter both wear burqas when they go to their next “prison”.
Dad, who worked as an Uber driver, was suffering from panic attacks while waiting for help.
“I don’t see the U.S. government getting into them and expelling them soon,” said Nat McGill, principal of the children’s elementary school, who exchanged daily lessons with the family.
Confusion has become a tool for mothers to protect their children from stress. Back in California, he asks them what they want to do and what they want to be when they grow up.
Their daughter hopes to be a doctor one day, and their sons say they want to be teachers.
But confusion is not always enough. When a relative tells a girl that the Taliban are taking little girls, she hides in a room and refuses to come out until her father pushes himself and says he can kill the Taliban, making her laugh.
The mother smiled, hiding the fear from her daughter, but later sent for her principal.
“This life is almost half-dead.”
Condon reports from New York, Watson from San Diego. Kathy Gannon of Kabul and Ellen Nickmeyer of Washington contributed to this report.